Surgical instruments had been crafted from forged iron for centuries. Accordingly, instrument makers naturally came from the trades of sword makers, knife and cutlery smiths and precision-tool makers such as watchmakers. However, specialized surgical instrument makers did not emerge until towards the end of the 17th century, and workshops specialized in surgical instruments were started first in England and France only in the 18th century.
In conjunction with the opening of the Serafimer Hospital, Hospital Director Olof Acrel was approached by the head of Sweden’s finest iron and steel smithy, Samuel Schröderstjerna. The question he raised was whether surgical instruments, which until that time had been brought back from England and France during physicians’ travels, could not be manufactured as cheaply and efficiently in Sweden.
Having gained the support of Acrel, Schröderstjerna selected a number of instruments from the hospital collections and placed a manufacturing order with two workshops in Stockholm, instrument smith Anders Wahlbom and blacksmith Christoffer Ketscher. A royal grant had allowed Ketscher to spend four years training in England and France, and he had subsequently been granted 6,000 Swedish kronor by the Swedish Manufacturing Fund to set up his workshop and start the manufacture of instruments on behalf of the army.
In 1759, seven years after its foundation, the Serafimer Hospital finally obtained a complete set of instruments.
In tandem with the establishment of an institute for training of barber-surgeons in practical surgery in 1816, C.F. Ponsbach was employed as its instrument maker. In addition to instrument manufacturnng as well as service and repair, the institute’s work included training users in instrument maintenance. This institute, which was relocated to new premises on the island of Kungsholmen in Stockholm in 1817, was the Karolinska Institute.
In 1841, after completing studies and practice abroad, Albert Stille assumed responsibility for the workshop. This constituted the birth of what we today know as Stille, and thanks to Albert Stille’s passion for developing suitable instruments of the highest quality in close partnership with physicians, Stille came to play a significant role in the development of surgery in Sweden and internationally.